|Posted by Ollons on June 12, 2012 at 1:00 AM|
'Prometheus' is Ridley Scott's return to science fiction. It is good yet not great. Set in the same universe as the 'Alien' franchise which is shown with the titular starship being created by the "Weyland-Yutani Corporation" although in the film's timeline it is still just the Weyland Company; also the prime alien focus are the "Space Jockeys" which there was a deceased one in 'Alien' and another of their engineered living weapons.
The visuals are incredible: the technology of future Earth and the Space Jockeys (in the film called "Engineers") is brought to life on the screen; the spaceship is stunning; the alien world and facility are respectively lifeless and creepy; and the creature effects are okay to spectacular.
The film's opening is a bit slow. About 5 minutes of a camera angle panning over a desolate cold prehistoric Earth (i.e. North Scotland), which feels like it should have David Attenborough narrating something. In the first 'Alien' film, the Space Jockey appeared to be a humanoid elephantesque creature however it is revealed this is merely a space suit as their true appearance is that of large pasty white extremely muscular hairless men; so, I just spared you the slightly disappointing reveal shown after the opening shots.
The design of the technology is impressive; it holds a familiar feel to earlier sci-fi films with the layout of the ship, interactive holograms, hibernation pods, pulse weapons such as a few pistols and a shot gun, Company-manufactured androids who are only shown to be such with white blood and impossible resilience during injury, seemingly impractical bubble helmets for the space suits, as well as a desolate alien world. More impressive is the technology of the Engineers which hold similar functions and styles of manmade technology yet holds an alien aesthetic through its design and occasionally organic appearance. A lot of effort was put into creating or rather recreating this universe; however, I believe that because of this other factors suffer.
The characters are not good except for one; I'll get to him in a moment. The spaceship Prometheus has a crew of 17; probably about ten too many for this kind of sci-fi horror, because the audience expects slaughter so tension is lessened by the presence of more characters whose fates they don't care about. The characters are barely developed and the ones who are, are not done very well. Creating a character who has an extreme of certain trait (such as confidence or lack thereof) can be a gamble; in this film, most of the primary cast are curious but this is shown to be so excessive that it seems like sheer stupidity. Another example is Charlize Theron's character Something Vickers (I don't care enough to check the names) who, I think, was supposed to be a strong-willed and independent woman. However, due to poor writing and/or acting she instead comes across as an arrogant insolent child (or quite frankly a bitch) which could be an interesting character in its own right but this was not the intent. Her character arc is weak at best: she is standoffish to the crew but apparently relents to the muscly black Captain's suggestion to get "laid" offscreen and with very little resistance, she is condescending to the protagonists as she is sceptical of alien life which isn't resolved when extraterrestrial existence is confirmed, she has a sibling-esque rivalry with the android which isn't explained until the middle of the 3rd Act but only briefly, and she has a strong sense of being a "rightful heir" which in the majority of the film manifests as ownership of Prometheus that seems more like a selfish toddler's possessiveness over their toys. Credit where it's due: she has an excellent posture.
Guy Pearce is okay and unrecognisable as the hideously aged founder of the Weyland Company whose story arc is essentially shown in the 'Alien' films via his legacy.
Noomi Rapace is also fine as the primary protagonist; she seems natural as the inquisitive and oft disillusioned scientist, albeit her strengths are spoiled by the lack of empathy that she has for the rest of the crew who risked a lot by going on a voyage born from her and her partner's ludicrous hypothesis that the shared star map between never meeting ancient cultures is an "invitation".
The only good character, ironically, is the only inhuman member of the Prometheus crew; the android or "synthetic person" David portrayed brilliantly by Michael Fassbender. The 2 year trip from Earth to the alien world is abridged through a montage of David's solitary existence around the ship while the humans were in suspended animation.
Isolation has been done a lot before in films, even in space, but I think a far more interesting film would have been the 2 year journey following David. He is essentially an erudite genius child as he is constantly curious and searching for new information shown by him studying instructional videos about language, old television shows, even watching the dreams of the crew which is another great sign of technology due to the ability of copying brain activity during sleep then show it externally.
David's search for knowledge and search for his identity are fused as a single purpose: to validate his existence. He has a sardonic wit and innocent charm about him which practically exonerates any of his "curiosities" despite the harm that they cause. His aim to find a reason for being is justified a few times, most prominently when he asks one of the scientists about the reasoning behind their voyage, i.e. discover the reason for humanity's existence. As the Engineers seem to be all dead, this exchange is predominantly the scientist being depressed and sort of cruel to David's inhuman status who humans built because "we could"; David retorts that if the Engineers gave a similar reason for creating humanity, "how disappointed would you be" thus verifying his although synthetic very real existential crisis.
It's unfair to draw comparisons but since it is the same universe, it is necessary. In James Cameron's 'Aliens', the Colonial Marines ignorantly entering the hive of Xenomorphs (the antagonistic species) is justified because they are soldiers, not experts on anything other than warfare. In this film, the crew is made up of scientific experts. Again, I shall spare you anticipation: who will be the first of the inevitably massacred crew to die? It's two people who separate from the first expedition into the alien structure; strangely the common sense of the bizarrely mohawked geologist and bespectacled biologist (Mohawk and Glasses) leaving the enigmatic chamber full of cylinders leaking black ooze with is undermined by an astonishingly poor sense of direction. Regardless, they aren't navigators so fair enough. After they double back into the chamber, alien life is confirmed out of the black ooze in the shape of two thin long serpentine creatures highly reminiscent of Xenomorph face-huggers, the biologist nears the prone snake thing. It's hardly a surprise that when the idiot touches the worm, it attacks him; when Mohawk cuts the creature's head off (familiar with the universe?) acid blood sprays over his helmet melting around his face. Glasses gets killed when the worm regrows its head and plunges down his throat. Mohawk dies or passes out in the black ooze which foreshadows later "body horror".
This film is not suitable for younger audiences. Freud would already have a field day with the phallic symbols and allegories to rape in the prior films; in this film, it is increased a tad with the inclusion of a Lovecraftian facehugger, tentacles and all.
The music was really good for the most part. It keeps in sync with the moods and content of the scenes; memorable are David's classical music-like theme from the start and the slow menacing music often accompanied by ominous chanting.
(SPOILER)The black ooze is never properly explained as whether it carries creatures, creates them when activated, or rapidly evolves indigenous organisms; evidently made for the purpose of planet-wide extermination. Plot wise, this is a major issue because while the Engineers created life on Earth they inexplicably "changed their minds"; even the last surviving Engineer who had been in hypersleep for millennia tried to continue the planned genocide despite all of his fellows being killed by their own bioweapon. An intolerable amount of questions are generated by this point: why did he enter stasis when the biohazard was kept outside of the control room? How did the bioweapon activate prematurely? Why would the Engineer try to restart the human extermination with the very thing that killed all of his crew? Why did the creation of humanity require an Engineer to reduce himself to the cellular level when it’s shown that they can create life other ways? Most importantly, WHY did the Engineers suddenly "change their mind" about humanity? Obviously, a franchise is planned around this film, even made necessary and set up by the resolution of the film.(SPOILER OVER)
Overall, a film with excellent visuals, okay and one example of excellent acting, adequate pacing, and a fascinating mythology. For all of the promotion and buildup, the film is good but disappointing; made more unfortunate because this film had all of the elements and potential to become a sci-fi classic like the first two 'Alien' movies.
Categories: Let's Get Critical - Movie Reviews by Ollons